Ferry commuters return, breathing sighs of relief

The Seastreak ferry service was in ervice from Wall St. to Jersey’s Atlantic Highlands Jan. 9, though the slip is still out of commission, forcing commuters to hover on Pier 11.

The Seastreak ferry service resumed between Wall St. and Jersey’s Atlantic Highlands Jan. 9, though the slip is still out of commission, forcing commuters to hover on Pier 11.

BY KAITLYN MEADE  |  Life moved as usual on Pier 11, with people swarming off the ferry and dispersing to their destinations — with little evidence of the accident that had occurred only a day earlier when a morning ferry crashed into the pier, injuring about 50 people. The only sign was a notice posted on Slip D that read ‘Out of Service. Ask an attendant.’

The high speed ferry in question left Atlantic Highlands in New Jersey at 8 a.m. on Wed., Jan. 9 and came to an abrupt stop when it barreled into a slip at Pier 11 at about 8:45 a.m. causing damage to the ship and pitching people across the deck and down stairwells.

For one man waiting on Pier 11, it was a narrow miss. “I was on the 7 o’clock ferry yesterday — I usually take the 8 a.m.,” said Sam Terrell, who has made the Hudson River commute from New Jersey to Manhattan for 15 years.

“Something like that brings it home, how close we come every day to calamity.” For him, it was one of several events that have forced him to “stop and think.” His town was recently flooded by Hurricane Sandy, though the water only came halfway up the driveway of his home. And in 2001, his office was located in the World Trade Center. He was slated to go up to a conference on the top floor on September 11. But he skipped it that fateful morning, which very well could have saved his life.

“My friends told me I should play the lottery,” he joked, but added that, “It gives you pause.”

“I usually stand on the stairs by the door,” said another commuter, also named Sam, waiting for the ferry service at 3 p.m. on Thursday. “I’m glad I was not in that position yesterday.” He said he had a friend who was on the out-of-control ferry, an emergency medical technician that was thankfully only “shaken up,” and was able to assist others who were injured that morning.

He was waiting to see where the ferry would dock, since it has been diverted to different slips since Slip D closed. “I just hope they don’t shut it down. That’s what most people are worried about now. It’s not easy to get here from the shore. Buses and trains take a lot longer,” he added.

The ferry operator, Seastreak, conducts routine commutes across the Hudson to the Wall Street pier. Officials say there were 326 passengers and five crew members aboard the ship, operated by Senior Captain Jason Reimer, 36. Reimer, during a three hour interview Thursday, told National Transportation Safety Board investigators that he tried to reverse the vessel, but mechanical failures prevented him.

Several passengers were rushed to nearby Bellevue and New York Downtown Hospital in neck braces. There have been no fatalities reported, but one passenger was in critical condition after the accident.

“We were heading Uptown for an appointment that morning, so we checked the news, and all I heard was ‘hard landing.’ I thought it was the helicopter,” said Battery Park City resident Danielle Moir, who was waiting at Pier 11 with her 6-year-old son. When they drove by at about 8:40 a.m., the boat looked undamaged and no one had yet exited onto the pier. “But as we drove Uptown, there were ambulances and police cars and fire trucks all heading Downtown.”

This is not the first Seastreak ferry accident. The Associated Press reported that there was an incident in 2010 in which the Seastreak Wall Street damaged its hull when it smashed into fender piles while pulling up to the dock. There was also an incident in 2009, according to CBS New York, in which the ferry hit a pier at E. 35th St., gouging a hole in the hull.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be visiting the craft in New Jersey today to test the ship’s controls and inspect the damage.

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